My tenure as the President of Rotary Bangalore Orchards will soon be coming to an end. While looking back at the eventful year that has gone by, I can say with much confidence that along with a strong team we have been able to create positive change in multiple ways. The learnings from the projects I have undertaken are many. One of the biggest things I have learnt is never to be a cosmetic philanthropist. It’s a term I have coined for individuals who believe in doing philanthropy that only changes things from the outside.
When we planned to transform 125 schools through the RBO Happy Schools project and 50 anganwadis, most people perceived it as another project that would repair and rebuild a school and leave it at that. Happy Schools is nothing as such. Yes, we have repainted the exteriors of many schools, built or renovated toilets, bought furniture and in many cases renovated the anganwadis located next to them, given outdoor play equipments, pure drinking water facility etc. But, as a team we wanted to go a step ahead and leave a legacy of long-term positive impact.
The libraries in these schools will be given books that we have sourced from the USA. It is a known fact that kids who grow up with books tend to be more intellectually inclined. We are also trying to partner with reputed schools in Bangalore to create a Teacher Exchange program. Through this, highly qualified teachers from these schools will spend time with children in rural Happy Schools and teach with academic as well as extracurricular skills. We have teamed up with Rtn.Tanveer Ahmed, Head of Mitra Academy and Little Flower Public School to help rural schools become like urban upscale schools.
The same thought process of long-term handholding has been extended to all the other projects that we kick started during my tenure. Rotary Koti Nati, which aims to plant 1 Crore trees in each revenue district (starting from Kolar & Chikkaballapura districts in Karnataka) across India, is being developed as a professionally managed entity with a dedicated team to oversee its progress. Plans are underway to make the project a case study that can be scaled and replicated in any part of the world where people believe in saving the environment. Once the saplings are planted, Rotary intends to supervise these saplings for a period of 3 years to ensure that they survive and grow into big trees. We have also partnered with Government of Karnataka’s “Hasiru Karnataka” (MGNREGA) Scheme for the effective roll-out of the project.
Philanthropy for me is never about signing a cheque and forgetting about what comes after that. I personally believe that philanthropy should always be about the scale of change and not the scale of the budget. It should never be limited to cosmetic changes that only make things look better from the outside. Our aim as philanthropists and charitable organisations should be to delve deeper into the needs of the beneficiaries and tailor our activities in such a way that it brings the maximum amount of long-term impact. If you are reading this, you can also take a look at the projects page on my website to get a snapshot of all the projects we are doing at the moment.